If you need an archiving program that can run under both Windows and Linux, sport a graphical interface, and be licensed as open source software, only a single program will do: PeaZip. It acts as a graphical front end for several tools that provide archiving, compression, encryption, and similar functions.
The Linux version of PeaZip is desktop-neutral, which means you can use it no matter whether you prefer KDE, GNOME, Xfce, or another desktop or window manager. The integration with the desktop might not work in all cases, because it depends on freedesktop.org standards; however, the basic functionality won't be affected. The software doesn't require special installation; simply plop it in any path (it will work even from a USB memory stick) and you'll be able to start using it.
The PeaZip download site contains the Windows version and several Linux options: a Portable/Standalone version with which you'll have to perform several extra installation steps, and prepackaged versions (deb and RPM) that are easier to install. Being an openSUSE user, I chose the RPM one. After downloading it (it's only about 5.5MB), type
rpm -Uvh peazip_theVersionYouDownloaded.rpm as root, and the program should install and integrate with your desktop.
If you prefer doing the installation yourself, get the Portable/Standalone version. After the download is complete, go to wherever you downloaded the package, and enter these commands as root:
mv peazip_theVersionYouDownloaded /usr/bin/peazip
Follow the instructions on screen to get a desktop icon, a menu entry, and so on. Note that with this "do-it-yourself" installation, the first time you launch PeaZip, you may find out that you need to install some libraries before everything works properly.
Open PeaZip, and select Tools -> Settings to configure the program. In the Create Archive tab, pick your default format (ZIP is a good option) and which formats should be allowed. For less knowledgeable users, it might pay to uncheck the less common options such as PAQ or QUAD, for example. The other tabs show more options, but the default values are usually good enough. Some documentation is available.
The main screen (see figure) provides two icons: one for creating an archive file, and one for extracting files from such an archive. By hovering the mouse over these icons you can see all the provided and available formats the program can be handle. The File menu includes entries for these two functions and adds tools for file splitting and joining, file checking, file comparison, and file wiping (secure deleting). Click on the light bulb at the upper right to get extra information. Finally, you can drag and drop files onto the window to create an archive or update an existing one.
To extract files from an archive, click on the appropriate icon and select the file. You'll be shown a browser-like interface with all the included files and directories. For a fuller list, click on the plus icon, and you'll get a complete ("flat") listing of all the files. To extract anything, you can either right-click (and pick the desired command from the pop-up menu) or use the buttons at the top of the window.
Archive creation is just a bit more complicated. When you click on the Create icon, you get an empty directory, to which you can add files and folders using drag and drop. You can change the format of the archive that will be created by right-clicking on the icon at the top left. Try the Options tab to specify:
- Compression parameters: The available options depend on the selected format.
- General options: For example, you can choose whether to create or update an archive, specify threads usage, and say whether to mail the result.
- Encryption options: Use these to produce a password-secured file.
After adding the files and picking the options, click on Create to produce the archive.
If you want a graphical archive/compression manager that works on both Windows and Linux, PeaZip works well. Not only can it replace paid alternatives, but its ability to run in both worlds is a boon for users who run both operating systems.